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Hardwiring Happiness

Holding on to positive experiences isn’t a thing we are naturally wired to do. Our brains have a negativity bias, so we remember what to avoid in order to stay safe and therefore alive. This served us well throughout our evolution as we learned to recognise predators and other dangers. However, in our modern day world where the majority of us know on a conscious level that we are safe, have shelter and plenty to eat we still have a tendency towards remembering the negative stuff and staying 'safe'. Although we no longer encounter life threatening experiences on a daily basis our bodies, albeit in varying degrees, still respond to stressful situations as if our lives are in danger by getting ready for flight, fight or freeze. It is the only way we know how to respond to negative experiences even if it is only our computer crashing, or racing to meet a deadline, or the missing our train.

As neuro psychologist Dr Rick Hanson put it: “We are like velcro for negative experiences and teflon for positive ones”.

However, we can train ourselves to have a bias towards positive experiences which in turn, cultivates traits such as happiness, kindness, optimism, connection and being motivated. To add to this good news, it is simple to do, highly enjoyable and will play a large part in sedating our stress response and allowing us to feel safe and be more aware of the good things in life. Studies have shown that if we consciously hold our positive feelings for at least 15 seconds we start to change our brains which enables us to hold on to the good feelings and remember them. Whenever you have a positive experience, take time to pause and allow the feeling to really sink into your bones like a soothing balm. Three deep breaths is enough time to make sure your experiences will make a difference. Do it throughout your day with the small stuff. That feeling of satisfaction when you finish folding your laundry, sitting for that well deserved cuppa, seeing your dog wagging it’s tail at you. Get into the habit of savouring those moments and let the snowball begin.

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